Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday, September 19, 1970: The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) / The Mummy's Curse (1944)

Synopsis: On a stormy night in the early 19th century, Mary Shelley (Elsa Lanchester), her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley and their friend Lord Byron are discussing Mary’s just-completed novel Frankenstein. Lord Byron marvels that the ladylike Mary could have penned such a ghoulish tale. He eagerly describes the plot of the story, and we see a recap of the original film. Lord Byron concludes by wondering what might have taken place after the monster was destroyed in the burning windmill.

Mary then tells the men that she has indeed devised a continuation of the story, and she begins to narrate a tale that begins where the 1931 movie ends.

As the flames of the windmill fire begin to die down, the pitchfork-bearing mob disperses. But the father of the young girl who drowned in the first film remains. He refuses to accept that the monster is dead until he sees its charred bones, and he begins to pick through the ruins to find them. The floor of the windmill gives out from under him and he falls into a flooded chamber below. The monster (Boris Karloff) appears nearby, evidently having been saved by the water in this subfloor, and the enraged creature drowns the man. The creature climbs up out of the ruins to find the man’s wife searching for her husband, and the monster kills her as well.

As the creature wanders the countryside, Henry (Colin Clive) recuperates at home. He is sorry for what he has done, but still gets that crazy gleam in his eye when he talks about the god-like power he had briefly harnessed. One night he is visited by Dr. Pretorious (Ernest Thesiger), a “professor of philosophy” who was fired from Henry’s university "for knowing too much”.
Pretorius wishes to form an alliance with Henry in order to create a new race of artificially-created humans. Henry has the power to restore dead tissue to life, but Pretorius claims to have mastered an entirely different trick – he can create new life out of inert material. To demonstrate this he takes Henry to his home, where – in a very odd scene – he unveils a series of tiny people he has grown in glass jars.

Meanwhile, the public learns that the monster still lives. It is captured and hauled into the village, but it soon escapes, leaving a trail of destruction behind it. Later it happens upon the cottage of a blind hermit, who befriends the creature, teaching it to speak a little, and to appreciate the finer things in life – namely, smoking and drinking. But a couple of townsfolk come looking for the monster, and in the course of the monster’s escape the cottage is burned down.

Pretorious wants Henry to use his knowledge of reanimating cadavers in tandem with his own knowledge of building new tissue. His plan is to procure the body of a young woman and create for it a blank brain that Pretorius has constructed. With a female, the monster will be able to reproduce and start a new race. Henry is tempted by the possibilities, but racked with guilt and uncertainty.

The monster stumbles into a vast crypt just as it is being raided by Dr. Pretorious and his assistants. Pretorious is not afraid of the monster in the slightest, and offers it a drink and a cigar, which the monster greatly enjoys. He brings it back to Henry’s estate, knowing that if Pretorious cannot force Henry to bring the new woman to life , the monster can….

Comments: This is Horror Incorporated's second broadcast of Bride of Frankenstein, and watching it again I am struck by how overtly it wears its religious symbols. Mary Shelley insists in the very first scene that her book will be published when it is understood that she is teaching a moral lesson, not just telling a spooky story.

From there the movie follows the monster emerging from the ruins of the windmill and wandering the countryside. As in the first film, its rage and frustration is mitigated by its childlike innocence, and when it is trussed up and then hoisted into the air by the angry mob, the Christ-like visual is only momentary, far too brief to become cloying.

Just as the monster died for Henry's sins in the first movie, now it is forced to suffer for his sins again -- in spite of his promises to be good, we know that Henry is going to go back to his old ways with the help of our cinematic snake in the garden, Dr. Pretorious.

Henry quickly identifies Dr. Pretorious' methods as black magic, and Pretorious does not deny this; and in speaking about the homunculi he has created, he says his favorite is the Devil, and notes that it bears a strong resemblance to himself. "Sometimes", he says, "I have wondered whether life wouldn't be much more amusing if we were all devils -- no nonsense about angels and being good."

Keeping himself amused is a job Pretorious takes very seriously. He laughs at the sight of another homonculus, this one dressed as a bishop, shaking its finger disapprovingly as the other little creatures have a good time. It is apparent that what got the professor kicked out of University is the same sort of worldly knowledge that got Adam and Eve kicked out of the Garden: the knowledge that God's meticulously ordered universe of arbitrary rules is, quite simply, a joke.

Horror films are by their nature conservative, even reactionary, and the chaotic Pretorious is held up as worse than Henry because Henry at least has the decency to agonize about his dark acts before he carries them out. For Pretorious, death and resurrection are, like life itself, the stuff of comedy. The man is so cheerfully amoral that we can't help but enjoy his company. Like Satan in Milton's Paradise Lost, he becomes the most interesting character by default -- everyone else is just so damned dull.

The impish Pretorius seems to embody Whale's sly sense of humor, which gets a bit more rope than it did in the first film. Pretorious' amusement at the sudden appearance of the monster in the crypt is perfectly done; and Dwight Frye's constant, nervous jabbering to himself is a brilliant touch. Una O'Conner offers the most blatantly slapstick bits in the movie, but they come at just the right moments, and never seem out of place.

Elsa Lanchester has got to enjoy the highest fame-to-screentime ratio in Hollywood history: she only played the Bride for a few moments, but they are unforgettable ones.

THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN can be found wherever fine monster movies are sold.

The Mummy's Curse

Synopsis: A construction crew is draining the swamps near a Louisiana village, and a number of men working on the project are nervous. There are tales of a mummy that roams the area at night, in the company of the Egyptian princess he carried into the swamp twenty-five years ago. Some of the locals dismiss it as the talk of superstitious yokels. Unfortunately, most of the guys working on the project are superstitious yokels.

Oh sure, the skeptics concede, we all know that a mummy did carry an Egyptian princess into the swamps, but that was a long time ago. You don't expect that sort of thing to get in the way of a federally-funded construction project.

An archeologist from the Scripps Museum named James Halsey (Dennis Moore) arrives on the site, bearing a letter that permits him to search the local swamps for traces of the mummy. Foreman Pat Walsh (Addison Richards) is annoyed by this sort of tomfoolery, but he must allow Halsey and his fez-wearing sidekick Ilzor (Peter Coe) to do as they please. The arrival of Halsey is not lost on Pat Walsh's beautiful daughter Betty (Kay Harding).

Almost immediately, mysterious mummy-related events begin to unfold. One of the workmen is found murdered, near an impression in the ground that is the same shape as a man -- as if a bulldozer had uncovered the body of a mummy.

Meanwhile, we learn that Ilzor is a member of the secret priesthood sworn to protect Princess Ananka*. He sets up shop in an abandoned monastery nearby, and aided by his henchman Ragheb (Martin Kosleck) revives the mummy Kharis.

Ilzor's plan is to use Kharis to track down Princess Ananka before Halsey does. But Ananka rises from the swamp and wanders into the village, suffering from amnesia. Her knowledge of ancient Egyptian artifacts impresses Halsey, who puts her to work on his archeological crew.

But the mysterious young woman is troubled by strange dreams, and a string of murders has been occurring, the victims found with ancient mold clinging to their broken necks....

Comments: The Mummy's Curse was the last -- as well as the shortest -- entry in Universal's original mummy franchise. It premiered in December 1944, just six months after the previous entry in the series, The Mummy's Ghost (which Horror Incorporated hasn't yet broadcast).

This final effort is entertaining enough, but the seams are clearly starting to show, as more and more plot contrivances are thrown in with a shrug of the shoulders . In one of the more remarkable continuity lapses between sequels, Kharis, who had descended into a New England swamp at the end of the last picture, emerges from a Louisiana swamp at the beginning of this one. Aw, what the hell! A swamp's a swamp, right?

And what better way to start off a horror movie than with a cheerful little polka? Tinde Benthe, proprieter of the eponymous cafe, serenades the Louisiana day laborers with a ditty called "Hey You!". This is not, by the way, the morose Pink Floyd song of the same name.

As a public service, I have transcribed the lyrics in question:

Hey you, with the naughty eye

As you pass us by we just have to cry

Hey you -- yoo hoo!

When we see you smile in that sweet profile

We dream all the while of you

Hey you!

Did we meet again at the Place de la Madeleine in the rue Lorraine?

We two! And if you care for me

And be my sweet cherie

YOO HOO! I go for you!

The patrons don't all get up and walk out during this number, but let's admit it: entertainment options are presumably limited in the bayou.

Nevertheless, once things get rolling we have a pretty good time. Much of the action focuses on the travails of an amnesiac Princess Ananka, played here by Virginia Christine. You would have needed to see The Mummy's Ghost to know that she was in fact a woman named Amina Monsouri, an Egyptian college student imbued with the spirit of Princess Ananka. The role was originally played by Ramsey Ames, whom I wound up liking a good deal more than Christine. But then, you never get over your first Ananka, do you?

Martin Kosleck does a yeoman's job as Ragheb, the guardian of Ananka whose earthly desires proves to be his undoing (again -- the same fate befell previous Ananka guardians George Zucco in The Mummy's Hand, Turhan Bey in The Mummy's Tomb, and John Carradine in The Mummy's Ghost).

Interestingly, the song "Hey You!" was co-written by the movie's producer, a Hollywood jack-of-all-trades named Oliver Drake.

Drake started his career as an actor in silent westerns, eventually writing, producing and directing cheap oaters himself for the poverty row studios until TV pushed the genre out of the theaters. He wrote songs for his movies too, with titles like "On the Prairie", "Moonlight on the Painted Desert," and "Out On the Lone Star Trail."

Drake did a fair amount of TV late in his career. He directed his last film in 1974, an X-rated feature called Angelica: The Young Vixen. Presumably taking a lead from Son of Dracula, he was credited as Revilo Ekard.


*They're doing a heck of a job, aren't they? Not only did they fail to protect the sanctity of the Princess' tomb, they are now mucking around in the Louisiana swamps after losing track of her for a quarter of a century.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Saturday, September 12, 1970: House of Frankenstein (1944) / The Frozen Ghost (1945)

Synopsis: In Neustadt prison, mad scientist Dr. Niemann (Boris Karloff) and his hunchbacked assistant Daniel (J. Carrol Naish) are unexpectedly freed when a wall of their cell collapses during a violent thunderstorm. The two happen upon Lampini's traveling horror show, which boasts as its main attraction the skeleton of Count Dracula. Neimann and Eric quickly murder Lampini and his driver and take their places. Niemann has been obsessed with proving the genius of Dr. Frankenstein and he sets out to the village where the Monster was created.

Niemann discovers that the skeleton of Dracula is authentic when he removes the stake that had been thrust through the vampire's heart. The skeleton promptly transforms into the Count (John Carradine).

Threatening to replace the stake if Dracula doesn't do his bidding, Niemann sends the vampire out to kill the three men who had him imprisoned: Strauss, Ullman and Hussman. Dracula kills Hussman but dies before he can dispense with the hated Strauss and Ullman.

Reaching the village of Vasaria, they encounter a band of gypsies. Seeing a gypsy woman Ilonka (Elena Verdugo) being abused, Daniel saves her and, smitten with her, asks her to join them.

Later, examining the ruins of Frankenstein Castle, Niemann and Daniel discover the frozen bodies of Frankenstein's Monster and the Wolf Man. Niemann realizes that the Monster can be revived, and he plans to place the Monster's brain in Lawrence Talbot's body; Talbot's brain in Strauss' body, and Ullman's brain in the Monster's body. But discovering that the Ilonka has fallen in love with Lawrence Talbot, Daniel wants his own brain placed into Talbot's body....

Comments: If this were Turner Classic Movies, and I were Robert Osborne, I would now be strolling toward you across a tastefully-appointed living room set, promising you a special evening of films starring Lon Chaney, Jr. and Elena Verdugo. Chaney and Verdugo appear in both of tonight's features, in analogous roles: Chaney as a guilt-ridden lone wolf, and Verdugo as a sweet, hapless young woman who vies unsuccessfully for his attention.

But TCM this isn't, and Robert Osborne I certainly am not. And if the person who programmed Horror Incorporated for the night of September 12, 1970 was even aware that two actors from House of Frankenstein would be seen later that night in The Frozen Ghost, we'll never know.

Perhaps it's unrealistic to ask for so much attention to detail. So let's chalk it up to coincidence, and give tonight's first movie a second look. I offered some notes on House of Frankenstein when it was first broadcast, and seeing it again hasn't improved my opinion of it.

I admire Boris Karloff's portrayal of Dr. Niemann, at least in the early going when he is a revenge-oriented fugitive scientist (which, of course, was exactly the character he played last week in The Invisible Ray). Later on, when he dons the white lab coat and decides to swap out brains like computer hard drives, his character becomes almost preternaturally boring. Meanwhile, Lon Chaney, Jr. seems unhappy with his billet and nearly gets lost in the jumble of this oddly-structured movie.

Actually, lots of things get lost; numerous characters enter and exit the film without their storylines ever intersecting, motivations shift around in order to conform to various plot demands, and in the end even the movie poster gives up and simply declares that House of Frankenstein is "History's Weirdest Household!".

No argument here. Imagine the fights over the bathroom each morning! Now that would have made an interesting movie.

I will give points to House of Frankenstein for its inventive finale, in which everyone manages to get killed in the last couple of minutes. You don't see efficiency like that from Hollywood anymore.

Elena Verdugo was a character actress whose dark complexion often landed her in "exotic" roles of various types. Like most of the roles afforded women in those days (well, in these days too) her character is essentially window dressing, but Verdugo projects an innocence that makes her a credible love interest for Daniel, and we feel sorry when she is killed off. Verdugo worked steadily through the 1940s and 50s, but found her greatest fame on television, where she played nurse Consuelo Lopez on the long-running series Marcus Welby, M.D.

Karloff and J. Carrol Naish play off each other pretty well, and once again I have to give Karloff credit for his consummate professionalism -- you never get the feeling that he's bored or uninvolved in the action, even when he's playing a character that he's essentially played many times before.

Of course, Universal's Frankenstein franchise was on its last legs by this time, and the Monster, which had been played with great sensitivity by Boris Karloff in the first three features, had been handed off to other horror-film stars in successive entries. So indifferent were their performances that for this go-round the producers decided not to cast an actor in the role at all, and stuntman Glenn Strange stumbled around under the makeup. He was actually better than Lugosi and Chaney in this role, but of course that isn't saying much.

The Frozen Ghost

Synopsis: Alex Gregor (Lon Chaney, Jr.) is a successful stage hypnotist who's got it all: sold-out live performances, a national radio show and a knockout assistant named Maura (Evelyn Ankers), to whom he is engaged. Performing as "The Great Gregor", his act is to first put Maura in a trance, then have her read the minds of astonished audience members.

One night a loud-mouthed drunk heckles Gregor, who gamely invites the man up to the stage. Gregor offers to hypnotize the guy and have him answer questions from the audience, just as Maura did. But the drunk is uncooperative and as Gregor stares into his eyes he angrily wishes the man were dead. Instantly the drunk keels over -- stone dead!

Gregor is mortified and turns himself over to the police. But the coroner states that the man was a heavy drinker with a heart condition, and the death is ruled the result of natural causes.

This does not satisfy the morose mentalist, who spends the night walking the streets, muttering "Death....death!" over and over.

So distraught is Gregor that he breaks off his engagement with Maura. His manager George Keene (Milburn Stone), sensing his meal ticket needs a little R&R, urges Gregor to stay at a relaxing place in a remote area for a while, and Gregor accepts.

Inexplicably, everyone agrees that there's no place in the world more relaxing than a wax museum, and Gregor moves into Madame Monet's, which is a sort of mansion with living quarters upstairs and wax sculptures on the main floor. He gets to know the people living there: owner Valerie Monet is assisted by brilliant wax sculptor and freelance kookenheimer Rudi (Martin Kosleck), and Valerie's general dogsbody Nina (Elena Verdugo).

As the weeks go by Gregor begins to feel more himself again, but seems only dimly aware that young Nina has developed a crush on him. Finding out about this, Valerie Monet, who had been nursing a crush of her own, is furious. She and Gregor argue, and Monet suddenly collapses to the floor. Hours later, Gregor finds himself standing down by the waterfront, with no idea of how he got there. He learns that Monet has vanished, and that her scarf is in his coat pocket....

Comments: Let Carrie Fisher complain about being overshadowed by her famous parents. I suspect that Lon Chaney, Jr. had a worse time of it.

The legendary silent film star Lon Chaney had often told his son Creighton that the young man wasn't cut out for a career in film. After Chaney pere's death, Creighton began pursuing film roles in defiance of his father's wishes, but success eluded him. It wasn't until he reluctantly adopted the stage name of Lon Chaney, Jr. that he began to get noticed.

One can only imagine how that felt, to want to prove his father wrong, to prove that he could make it on his own merits, and yet need his father to get a leg up in the business. I suspect that all the success Lon Chaney, Jr. enjoyed never quite took the sting out of having to trade on his father's name in order to make that success possible.

And maybe it's my imagination, but I feel I can see that frustration in the man's performances -- and a good example is tonight's second feature, The Frozen Ghost. So far, we've seen four of the six Inner Sanctum mysteries. Our second feature tonight is a repeat of The Frozen Ghost which, like all the entries in this film series, stars Lon Chaney, Jr.

Inner Sanctum Mysteries run along a fairly predictable groove. Chaney portrays a decent, put-upon fellow, who at some point is accused of murder. The central mystery is whether or not Chaney's character is guilty.

There are other common elements to the Inner Sanctum films*. The protagonist is always successful, and young women always find him attractive, though he seems rather oblivious to it. In two of the films he breaks off his engagement with his fiancee because he assumes she is only going forward with it reluctantly; in two others, he has blackouts during which the victim is murdered -- blackouts that occur without benefit of alcohol, a blow to the head, or a history of such episodes.

Such a convenient blackout features prominently in The Frozen Ghost.

The movie begins with Alex Gregor's mentalist act. Well, it isn't his mentalist act. Gregor is a hypnotist, not a mentalist. See, what he does is hypnotize Maura, then she does the mentalist act. But it turns out that he can hypnotize anyone, and have them read minds.

At one point Gregor says that he's had his mental powers all his life. But how would he know, if he had to hypnotize someone to find out?

Well, it's kind of complicated. This is too bad, because his stage show is broadcast to a national radio audience. The announcer stands at stage left, murmuring a lugubrious play-by-play into the microphone:


Now Gregor the Great is leading a member up to the audience up to the stage....he's going to place the man into a hypnotic trance....


Sir, please sit down and try to relax.


You ain't gonna hypnotize me, ya two-bit Houdini!


Hold still, please! The process can't work if you're agitated!


Remember, folks, Gregor the Great can't read minds, he hypnotizes people so that they can read minds....


This is all a bunch of hokum, if you ask me!


Nobody asked you!


This member of the audience appears to be inebriated and uncooperative....

If I were sitting at home listening to this, I'd probably be yelling, "Martha, for gosh sakes, what is this junk you're listening to? Ain't Duffy's Tavern on yet?".**

After the obnoxious drunk dies, Gregor is certain that he's responsible -- so certain that even after the coroner rules that the death was due to natural causes, he wanders the streets all night, muttering to himself that he's a murderer.

This seems a bit much, even for someone in show business, and when he breaks off his engagement with Maura (he doesn't want her to marry a murderer out of a misplaced sense of obligation) there's no escaping it: the guy is a serious drama queen.

This is supposed to set us up for a big payoff later. Gregor is unsure if he is really a murderer, and then he has a blackout and Valerie Monet disappears. We're supposed to wonder if Gregor really did it.

But it doesn't make any sense to wonder this, because Gregor's m.o. has already been established: he kills with his mind and then turns himself in to the police, whether they believe him or not. If he killed Valerie Monet with his mind, why would he then drag her body down to the waterfront and dispose of it, then blot out the memory? Wouldn't his overweening sense of responsibility prevent him from doing such a thing?

Oh well, Gregor is really just doing double duty here. He's both the protagonist and the red herring. It had to be that way: the Inner Sanctum Mysteries were pretty low-budget affairs.

Neverthless, the much-maligned Lon Chaney, Jr. does a good job leading the cast, and Martin Kosleck steals every scene he's in as nutty wax sculptor Rudi. And as for Elena Verdugo -- well, this is her night, isn't it?

THE FROZEN GHOST hasn't been released on DVD, but VHS copies are available through Alibris


*With the exception of Strange Confession, which was structured somewhat differently than the others.

**Implausible dialogue is simulated. You can hear Duffy's Tavern Thursday nights on this NBC Blue station. Consult your local listings for times and frequencies.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Interlude: Chiller

A fan of WPIX's creature feature Chiller created this -- it's a clever reconstruction of a mid-70's broadcast of the show, featuring The Crawling Eye (1958), a movie starring the supernaturally beautiful Janet Munro (oh, and Forrest Tucker was in it too).

The reconstruction comes complete with bumpers and commercials from the era.

Clever idea, eh? It's nicely done, too, but (if I may be a bit obsessive here) the commercials are from national ad campaigns which were unlikely to air late at night (at least here in the Twin Cities; perhaps in New York it was different). Horror Incorporated fans may recall spots for local advertisers -- TV dealers and waterbed retailers and heating & air conditioning installers.

If you remember any of them, let me know. For right now, I'll stick with the movies.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Saturday, September 6, 1970: The Great Impersonation (1935) / The Invisible Ray (1935)

The Great Impersonation

Synopsis: Austrian nobleman Baron Von Ragenstein (Edmund Lowe) has been banished to the wilds of Africa after killing a romantic rival in a duel . He is surprised to come upon his exact look-alike, Sir Edward Dominey, half-dead in the jungle.

Not only are the two identical in appearance, but their lives have gone on parallel trajectories: they had attended Oxford together, and Dominey has recently banished himself to Africa, after he too had been accused to killing a romantic rival. Now Dominey is a dissolute fellow, busily drinking himself to death. But a plan is already germinating in the Baron's mind.

It seems that since his exile, Von Ragenstein has been working for an international munitions manufacturer, one that wants to push the nations of Europe toward war. They have agents throughout mainland Europe and now need an agent in England, someone influential who can help ensure that the peace-loving Brits join the fray. Knowing that Sir Edward had once run for Parliament, Von Ragenstein decides to have Dominey killed and take his place in England.

Before long he shows up at Dominey Hall and easily passes himself off as Sir Edward. But his reception is a frosty one. Housekeeper Mrs. Unthank (Esther Dale) believes he killed her son Roger (Dwight Frye), though the body was never found. His wife Eleanor (Valerie Hobson) was traumatized by the alleged murder, which took place on their wedding day; moreover, she can still hear the ghost of Roger crying piteously in the night. Dominey Hall itself is in a state of decline and discord.

Everyone in the household is soon astonished by the "new man" that Sir Edward has become. He is no longer a drunken, boorish cad; he is courteous and attentive. He takes charge of the estate, engaging workmen to effect repairs on the dilapidated buildings and walls. He treats the servants with a decency they have not seen before. He even treats Eleanor well, showing her the affection that had always been denied her. Soon morale at Dominey Hall is high, and Eleanor is well on the road to recovery.

But the strange sobbing from Roger's ghost are still being heard in the house, and the Baron's lover Princess Stephanie (Wera Engels) visits Dominey Hall, and begins to suspect that he has fallen in love with Eleanor.

But then she learns that Edward Dominey wasn't killed in Africa, but escaped and might have made his way to England. So the question becomes: is this Von Ragenstein pretending to be Dominey, or Dominey pretending to be Von Ragenstein pretending to be Dominey?

Comments: I'm not entirely sure that The Great Impersonation can rightly be called a horror movie. Just what kind of movie we're dealing with is hard to pin down. Perhaps it's more easily defined by what kind of movie it isn't: it isn't a political thriller, isn't a Victorian melodrama, isn't a haunted-house film, isn't a propaganda film, and isn't a romance.

But like two earlier Horror Incorporated entries, The Black Room and The Man Who Lived Twice, The Great Impersonation cleverly plays with the idea of identity. By the end of the picture we find that we didn't know who Edward Dominey was any more than we knew who Von Ragenstein was. And unusually for a movie of this era, the answer is less pat than it first appeared.

After all, the man who ends up living in Dominey Hall couldn't really be Edward Dominey, the blue-blood drunk that everyone back home had learned to despise. Even if he had somehow managed to escape his captors and return to England, he would still be the same man he was -- the same moral coward who tormented his wife into the madhouse, who lied and cheated his way into exile, the same heel who decided once in Africa that the highball glass was the only thing worth living for.

Nor could he really be Baron Von Ragenstein, the cold-blooded and morally bankrupt shill for a crooked arms dealer, the man who would -- literally -- kill for the chance to get sent back to Europe.

Somehow, we have wound up with an amalgamation of the two; the doppelgangers have fused into one man, more than the sum of their parts. This is never explicitly stated; rather, the conclusion offers a daffy switcheroo that can't be taken seriously. It's only on reflection -- walking home from the theater, let's say -- that the real significance of The Great Impersonation sinks in.

Edmund Lowe is probably best known for playing the title role in Chandu the Magician (1932) and he specialized in playing smug, upper-crust types. I've written admiringly about Valerie Hobson's performances in two other movies released the same year as The Great Impersonation: Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and Werewolf of London (1935); she is much more naturalistic than her contemporaries and she is a joy to watch here.

THE GREAT IMPERSONATION is available through Satellite Media Productions.

The Invisible Ray Synopsis: Renowned scientist Janos Rukh (Boris Karloff) demonstrates his newest discovery to a disbelieving group of savants, including Dr. Felix Benet (Bela Lugosi). In a somewhat surreal and complicated sequence, he reveals that all light and sound waves are preserved in space and time, and that looking back far enough he can see the moment millions of years ago in which a meteor containing an ultra-rare element called Radium X fell in southwestern Africa.

Radium X, as the name implies, is a souped-up form of radioactive material, possessing great potential for both healing and destruction. Somewhat baffled but convinced by his demonstration, the scientists join Rukh on an expedition to recover the meteorite. In Africa, Rukh works obsessively to unlock the secrets of Radium X.

Meanwhile, Rukh's beautiful young wife Diana (Frances Drake) begins to fall in love with another man on the expedition (Frank Lawton). Most of the party returns to Europe. Dr. Benet quickly discovers that Radium X, applied properly, can cure any physical ailment, and he uses it to heal the sick, though he assiduously credits Dr. Rukh with the element's discovery.

When Rukh returns home he learns of his wife's infidelity and of his rivals building new careers on his work. After receiving an accidental overdose of Radium X, Rukh discovers that his skin glows in the dark and that his touch can kill.

The overdose also seems to have left him deranged, and he decides to murder all those whom he believes have betrayed him, starting with the scientists who accompanied him on the expedition....

Comments: When I first embarked on the Horror Incorporated Project, I knew there would be days like this. I knew there would be repeat broadcasts of movies, and I knew that some of the movies would be clunkers. And I spent some time thinking about how to handle that.

My pledge to you (well, you weren't there, but it was to you) was to watch every movie on the schedule, in order, just as if I was watching Horror Incorporated each week. Didn't matter if I'd seen the movie before. I wouldn't cheat and throw a note up saying, yep, saw this on December 20 -- though of course I did, and you can read the review here.

I decided I'd try to have something new to say about repeated films, try to find some angle I hadn't examined before. And so far, I've been able to keep that up. But I am sorry to say that The Invisible Ray didn't wear very well on a second viewing, and I found it difficult to say anything new. So instead, I decided to build a drinking game around the alleged romance between Frances Drake and Frank Lawton, two of the most unconvincing screen lovers you are likely to come across.

But even in this modest goal I was frustrated. There wasn't a catchphrase repeated often enough to warrant a drinking game, but I did find myself seeing everything Diana said as a double entendre. This might be due to the faintly suggestive tone she used to deliver every line, or it might be that I just have a dirty mind.

Well, why not both? Here's Diana and Ronald, witnessing the great scientists preparing to unlock the mysteries of the universe:

All this makes a man like me feel quite small and useless.

Oh, but you've entered uncharted places too!

[That's what she said!]

And here's Diana returning to her tent in the jungle:

Bring me three boys for a safari!

[That's what she said!]

This dreary romantic subplot mostly takes place during the movie's Africa-based second act. But on this viewing I must admit that Diana and Ronald do step aside in the lively third act, which takes place in Paris and involves a glow-in-the-dark Boris Karloff taking loony revenge on everyone whom he thinks has betrayed him -- which is, of course, just about everyone. Karloff certainly isn't afraid to go over the top in this effort, and his death scene -- where he literally disintegrates in midair -- is quite spectacular.

If I ever receive a lethal dose of radium X and find that I can both glow in the dark and kill with a touch of my hand, I'll keep asking myself, What would Boris Karloff do? And then I'll do that. Just letting you know in advance.

THE INVISIBLE RAY can be found on the Universal DVD set The Bela Lugosi Collection. It's available on Amazon.